Saturday, April 12, 2014

Condolence To Teens

You know that teenagers have a lot going on.

Some of their "stuff" is on the outside:
  • physical changes
  • social imperatives like activities and choice of clothes
  • the smart phone appendage
  • academic life
  • work and cash flow

However, take a cue from a passing iceberg: what's on the surface is a fraction of what's important to a teenager...
  • feelings form...and may rearrange
  • passions and attachments are craved
  • creativity simmers
  • pressures seem constant
  • losses are jarring

Teenagers add to their vulnerability as their scope of caring relationships expands. 

As new life experiences pile up-- including deaths, the pursuit of answers to basic questions might be sought among peers, social media, or a parent. Faced with the 'montage' of emotions during a journey through grief:  sadness, relief, regret, anxiety-- it takes maturity or a trusted source of validation, to recognize that this is normal. 

Safe and Trusted Sources. 

Truthful discussion with safe (non judgemental) sources are beneficial. Grief and Bereavement specialists at Arbor Hospice offer a list of conversation starters.  Teens are struggling to wriggle out of childhood’s cocoon, and sometimes it isn't easy for them to put feelings into words. But their instincts for creative expression are easily tapped.

Journaling or writing poetry is one of the most widely suggested tools for teens to process grief.

I believe a question, "How did you feel when you heard the news?" can be useful in a condolence note, and I use questions, from time to time. Though written, it expresses interest, caring, and validation.

Consider creating a condolence "gift":
Buy a journal or notebook, and write your condolence note (with one gentle question,) on the first page.
Your note becomes a starting point for the teen's written reflections. In addition to your question, you might use a couple of these Key Comforts:
  • Sharing the loss
  • Sharing a personal memory
  • Sharing a parallel experience, if you have one
  • Appreciate a quality of the relationship shared by the teen and the deceased
Thank you for caring!

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